Say you are 25. You have just got your first job. Rather than do the filmi thing and hand your first salary to your Mom, you want to buy a saree for her. Not just any old saree but a good one. Perhaps you’ll buy one for yourself too. It feels grown up– the thing to do. All of those corporate women you admire are clad in the most beautiful sarees.
There is just one problem. You have no idea how to go about it. You have worn a saree– but once. To your graduation. You don’t know how to tie it. Or indeed how to pull it off without a hundred safety pins.
Well, my friend. Let me tell you about a saree. Why it is special.
For one thing, it has endured.
Once upon a time every culture has its own attire based on its climate, culture and convenience. Scotland had kilts; Japan, kimonos; Austria, a dirndl; China, its cheong sam.
Today, all of them have fallen by the wayside, used only ceremonially or for costume parties. India is arguably the only culture where people still regularly wear clothes that go back at least 5000 years. We have retained this unbroken link to our ancestors, one that springs from our land and its culture. It is pretty stunning actually to think that the saree that you are wearing links you to the Indus Valley civilization and indeed, to the dawn of Indian civilization.
Before humans invented tailoring and stitching, they invented weaving and draping. Look at the Greek statues in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and you will see men and women in draped clothes– called togas. Once tailored clothes made their appearance, most cultures switched. India is the only culture where stitched and unstitched clothes still coexist.
We still drape woven cloth over our bodies– like humans used to do all over the world (and have now mostly stopped except here in India). Even the men have largely given up their dhotis and lungis. Indian women on the other hand still wear a saree. We still celebrate the purity of the unstitched woven cloth.
Handspun, handwoven fabrics of different colours and lengths. Customization to the nth degree. Made by hand. Toiled over by many artisans and craftspeople. Woven with their blood, sweat, tears, hopes and dreams.
To adorn and protect the body. Yours.
For one person’s pleasure. Yours.
Handspun…. Handwoven…. Authentic to a culture…Going back centuries…. To infinity and beyond….